Ryanair v Billigfluege; Ryanair v On the Beach: use of website binds defendants to its terms and conditions

termsAlthough Article 2 of the Brussels I Regulation specifies that a person can only be sued in the courts of the Member State in which he is domiciled, Article 23 allows an exemption for contracting parties to nominate the courts of another state as having jurisdiction. This can be done by agreement or by industry custom and practice. The standard of proof required by a plaintiff to show such an agreement is the balance of probabilities. A defendant appealing the decision of a court of a Member State (other than the state of domicile) that it has jurisdiction bears the burden of proving otherwise.


Billigfluege and On the Beach are both online air travel booking sites. Ryanair is suing both in the Irish High Court (in separate actions) for breach of the terms and conditions for the use of its website. Both defendants challenged the jurisdiction of the Irish High Court to hear the cases.

In the High Court, Hanna J determined from affidavit evidence and contractual analysis that, by using Ryanair’s website, Billigfluege had accepted Ryanair’s terms regarding the jurisdiction of the Irish courts. Also, Laffoy J determined (also from affidavit evidence) from custom within the airline online booking industry that there is a general practice of accepting terms and conditions by the ticking of boxes; by using Ryanair’s website, On the Beach accepted the terms giving jurisdiction over disputes to the Irish Courts. Both defendants challenged the power of the court to make those findings without hearing oral evidence.

Supreme Court

Writing for the Court (here), Charleton J held that the finding by the High Court of its jurisdiction to hear these cases was not an exercise of discretion but a finding of fact. Therefore the test to be applied on appeal was that from Hay v O’Grady: that the Court could not overturn a finding of fact supported by credible evidence. Both trial judges had sufficient evidence on affidavit to support the findings made. And neither appellants had demonstrated an error in the High Court’s findings. He dismissed both appeals.

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